VioletMusic by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by Brian Crawley
Directed by Leigh Silverman
Roundabout Theatre Company
American Airlines Theater
What's it All About?
It's the revival of a 1997 musical Based on the short story “The Ugliest Pilgrim” by Doris Betts which follows the story of a young Christian woman, Violet (Sutton Foster), whose face is disfigured when her father's ax blade accidentally flies in her direction, and her journey for a miracle to make her beautiful. The story, told somewhat confusingly, shows various scenes, not always in chronological order, with Violet as a young girl (Emerson Steele, who indeed looks like a little Foster) growing up with her father (Alexander Gemiignani) and as a woman on her way to seek the help of a TV evangelist (Ben Davis), movie magazines in hand, for quick reference to what is considered beautiful.
On the bus trip from North Carolina to Oklahoma, she encounters a variety of characters including two soldiers who alter the course of her life. Monty (Colin Donnell) is the dashing, knows-he's-handsome guy she becomes romantically entangled with and Flick (Joshua Henry), who offers her friendship, and maybe a better future, even if their bi-racial relationship is sure to cause problems in the South of 1964.
What are the highlights?
- The disfigurement is not depicted, but imagined.
- Foster, always a delight, is in full voice here, singing some very lovely tunes by Tesori, who also incorporates country and gospel sounds into the score (Fans of Foster's CD "Wish" will recognize "On My Way.") The actress gives a moving, vibrant portrait of a woman looking for her self worth.There's a terrific scene with themes of forgiveness and reconciliations as well.
- There's a terrific gospel number performed by Lula Buffington (RemaWebb) and company as part of television healing service and quite a lot scripture throughout the musical.
- Joshua Henry brings his dreamy voice to the role as well as a layered sensitivity. His rendition of "Let it sing" brought an extended burst of applause that almost qualified as a showstopper.
- Simple sets (designed by David Zinn) that don't get in the way of the story telling.
- A very talented cast well directed by Silverman.
What are the Lowlights?
- The book is very weak, leaving lots of questions unanswered, like why the womanizing Monty would be attracted to the unfortunate Violet, or why she and the two soldiers feel a bond of friendship so strongly and so quickly, except to give the plot its impetus. The disjointed scenes make that plot difficult to stay with at times.
Violet runs through Aug. 10 at American Airlines Theatre, 227 West 42nd St., NYC. http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/
Runtime: one hour, 45 minutes, no intermission
Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexually suggestive lyrics and situations
-- God's name taken in vain